DAVID BIANCULLI

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1953: 'Amos 'n Andy' Ends its Run on CBS
June 11, 2017  | By David Bianculli
 
The good news is, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's organized protest of this TV series awakened many people to the limited, and usually derogatory, portrayal of blacks on network television. The bad news is, Amos 'n' Andy — which ended its two-season run on CBS on this day in 1953 — was a truly funny show, and, though some characters were shiftless, conniving, and anything but role models, others were judges, lawyers, and other authority figures — and at least the TV series, unlike the hit radio show on which it was based, gave the starring roles to black actors, rather than to white actors imitating black dialects.

The words Amos 'n' Andy today are largely associated with racist attitudes of an earlier time, and the show itself remains so sensitive a topic that it has yet to be revived for general syndication. However, interested viewers who seek out episodes ... will encounter a sitcom superior, in its caliber of scripts and its ensemble acting, to most of today's TV comedies.

Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams did a wonderful job embodying, and expanding upon, the characters created for radio by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, and Tim Moore's blustery Kingfish, in particular, is a brilliant comic portrayal.

Episodes of Amos 'n' Andy, seen today, hold up quite well, employing sophisticated physical slapstick and familiar character comedy in the I Love Lucy vein. The problem with Amos 'n' Andy, back then, was that it wasn't part of a wider spectrum. Had, say, F Troop been the only TV series featuring whites, the broad caricatures on that series might have been seen as no less insulting to that race.

Sadly, the lack of ethnic diversity, though improving, continues to plague commercial network TV; happily, Amos 'n' Andy seems overdue for a reevaluation by TV and cultural historians.

—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events


 
 
 
 
 
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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20. (Paperback will be available September 5th, here.)

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post

 

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